The aroma of global delicacies filled MIT’s Bush Room as students made cultural connections and answered trivia questions at the third Heritage Meets Heritage event.
The event is organized MIT World Languages, and became a tradition. It was held for the first time in 2022. in the spring and again that fall. The third event, held on October 19, continued with the same theme: celebrating the diversity and culture of the MIT community.
The event is co-sponsored MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) and Herman Unidas.
Annabel Tiong, a first-year biological engineering student, is studying Chinese this semester and came to meet other students studying Chinese. “But I also wanted to see some of the other possible languages. I knew there would be many other students from other language courses here. So it was a good opportunity to meet them,” she said.
Tiong herself is Chinese and grew up speaking the language, but has never been able to read or write Chinese. She is taking a simplified Chinese class and hopes it will help her communicate in Chinese with her parents via text and email. by post
While enjoying an empanada, Tiong said the event helped her learn about other cultures.
“Some of the people at my table are from Korea and they told me about Korean traditions. I didn’t realize how similar they were to Chinese traditions. It was great to make those connections,” she said.
Chinese language teacher Min-Min Liang says she had no idea how the event would turn out when she helped launch it in 2022. She saw it as a way to highlight the beauty of diversity in the MIT community.
“My intention then, as now, was to bring everyone together,” she says.
She says that with the tremendous support of the World Languages Department and all the instructors from each language group, the third event was a success. “I saw our community—teachers and students—come together to celebrate our differences while simultaneously recognizing our similarities.
Students sat in groups at tables throughout the room, and in between trivia questions, they took time to discuss a variety of topics that gave them the opportunity to share something unique about their heritage.
Some of the topics discussed were:
- “How does your culture celebrate love and gratitude?”
- “Do you consider yourself a bicycle?” If so, how is it expressed?
- “On what holidays in your culture do people give each other gifts?”
At the end of the event, everyone in attendance enjoyed sampling food from pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls) to baklava.
First-year student Nielsen Euvard says he enjoyed making connections with other MIT language departments and MISTI. He found conversations with other students insightful. “The discussion activity was really great for my friends and I to reflect on ourselves and how our cultural background shapes our decisions. And the variety of food was great,” he says.
Brian Carrick, a second-year chemical engineering PhD student, is studying Portuguese this semester. He is not a heritage speaker, but attended the event to learn more about the global experiences of members of the MIT community. “It was so much fun learning about just a few of the cultural celebrations and experiences other students grew up with. It really puts a bigger picture into perspective,” he says.
German lecturer Emily Goodling is helping to organize the event. Heritage Meets Heritage, she says, reveals some of the deeper purpose of language learning and teaching in the Department of Global Studies and Languages: to bring people together, to build community across national borders and language barriers.
“It was incredible to see students from so many different backgrounds in one room having a meaningful conversation about what it means to participate in multiple cultures,” says Goodling. “I think it reflects what happens when we learn languages: we develop our ability to communicate empathetically and authentically with people who are different from us.” And that is vitally important right now.”
Maria Khotimsky, senior teacher of the Russian language, also helps organize the event.
“Heritage Meets Heritage is a unique event that brings MIT students together for meaningful conversations about languages and cultures and food from around the world,” says Khotimsky. “It’s also a testament to the camaraderie and incredible teamwork of the world language faculty and staff who work together to make this event possible.”
Khotimsky says Global Languages plans to hold the event annually each fall semester.
“Bacon fanatic. Social media enthusiast. Music practitioner. Internet scholar. Incurable travel advocate. Wannabe web junkie. Coffeeaholic. Alcohol fanatic.”